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Electric Cars Hit By Poor Infrastructure and Government Inaction

Volumes for Mahindra’s electric car Reva e2o are down. But Chetan Maini, CEO of Mahindra Reva, is still optimistic and is fast revving up charging infrastructure

Published: Feb 7, 2014 09:27:04 AM IST
Updated: Feb 7, 2014 09:29:43 AM IST
Electric Cars Hit By Poor Infrastructure and Government Inaction
Image: Amit Verma

Q: How is it going with the Reva e2o?
Maini:
Good. We have shown quite a few models. So you can understand the push from the group level.

Q: Is there something we will see in production soon?
Maini:
I think the important thing is the electric charge station [such that] we actually have an e20 with a smart port that gives you bi-directional energy. So I can do a quick charge, I can power your home now using the car and I can run the vehicle on sun. The car is being launched later this month in the showrooms. We have also developed a fast-charging station so you can charge your car in less than an hour. In 15 minutes, you get 25 kilometres. People have anxiety about it. So we put out a technology that we have been working on for four years. We have finally introduced it after we made sure it is perfect.

Q: How are you doing the rollout?
Maini:
We are going to start putting some infrastructure ourselves. So, we were really hoping the government policy to come out because one of them was [regarding] infrastructure. Today regular charging stations are about 300 [put] by ourselves. We will put the first level of fast charging also. But after that we are looking at public-private-partnerships because you know it is a business. We will kick-start it but the model has to move in that direction. We have made it compatible with all our products coming later on. So, the Verito and the Maximo or the Gio will be same. And in time, we will have standards available for other OEMs also, in case they want to use it. So in a way, [we] keep the standards open. Our thought process is to start it because someone has to.

Q: Are charging stations expensive?
Maini:
Globally a charging station is $20,000. That is the price of the cheapest one. Normal ones are $30,000. The one we have made is under Rs 3.5 lakh. So, we have created an affordable station.

Q: How did you do it?
Maini:
Well, we have been working on it for four years now. Our cars are more affordable [that others] and we’ve built the charging station in a similar fashion. Let’s say [we’ve] built it in a way of what’s needed for India. How many people will use it? I don’t know. But it just addresses the anxiety. I think it will make adoption easier.

Q: How have the volumes been so far for the e2o?
Maini:
Not as much as we would have liked. I think consumers have loved the product, we have got very good feedback but volumes have been low. So, our push right now is to do something internally because the government hasn’t done anything. We are doing a lot of work on experiences: Giving consumers the car for two or three days has helped in lot of conversions. We have signed up with Carzonrent and Zoom cars [car rental services]. One customer did about 6,000 kms last month. Later this month, we are introducing something on financing. The challenge today is, electric car buying is like buying a petrol car with 6,000 litres of petrol and everyday [have to] keep filling it. I give you energy with the car so the opportunity cost is 10 times cheaper but people don’t recognise it. Suddenly if I say you can pay in a different manner, I think it becomes much easier. In Europe companies have done this and have seen a 3X jump in sales.

Q: What’s happening on the policy front?
Maini:
On the policy side, it is Mission 2020 of the government which says they want to put 5-6 million electric cars on the road by 2020. That included a subsidy which existed till 18 months ago. So a customer bought a Reva and got Rs 1 lakh subsidy. I think that’s a big plus to bring the sticker price down. Second thing is the infrastructure. The new policy was announced by the prime minister in January 2013. It was supposed to roll out by March and then September. It didn’t. So they said we will roll out an interim policy. There have just been challenges on the government [front]. And delays. Like several things which have slowed down, this is one more thing that hasn’t happened.

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  • Ananth

    Govt recently announced that they roll out the subsidies by April 2014. Have to wait and see, if they walk the talk or just continue with policy paralysis. Bangalore is already choking with pollution. NEMMP 2020 is really futuristic and must be implemented on priority. we can not dig a well when we are thirsty. Implementation of these policies should be done on priority and should start immediately. Hope some one is hearing !

    on Feb 26, 2014
  • Vrajendra Vyas

    Respected Sir,The electric vehicle should be alloted on population basis.Thank You.

    on Feb 11, 2014
  • Avinash Baliyan

    Delhi Government has rebated 29% cost on REVA ( VAT is exempted, and many others) . So the Final price in Delhi is Rs 6.75 Lakhs on road. Thank you Delhi Government!

    on Feb 10, 2014